Sadly, I can’t embed any of my own photos in this blog as the internet service here in Da Lat is somewhat unpredictable. I’m already having to use a proxy to access the website and I’m having to bounce this post off a server in Kazakhstan, and let me tell you, she isn’t too happy about it!
This is our last week in Da Lat; we’re off to Mui Ne on the coast for a few days to plan our next move. As usual, we have a few irons in the fire – we were originally going to Cambodia but we may land a job back with the British Council in Egypt which would change things a tad.
Anyway, here’s our wrap-up with Da Lat.
The weather here is the biggest boon: it’s not too hot and we still don’t need coats so we can walk to the school every day in shirt sleeves. This raises a few eyebrows among the locals who are used to seeing foreigners wearing more than just sleeves. We haven’t yet braved riding the motorbikes but have used the local buses to get us to the nearby mountain and some welcome tranquillity.
About those bikes…
It’s certainly less chaotic here than in the big cities but the bikes still drive you mad. The placid Vietnamese character is utterly transformed when on a motorised two-wheeler. Crossing the road is always life-threatening with these jokers coming at you from all directions. Honking the horn is genetically programmed and the way to tell pedestrians to ‘Get out of my way, chowder-head, ‘cos I’m not stopping’. It makes no difference if the biker is on the pavement or on the wrong side of the road. Incidentally, the pavements (sidewalks) have demarcation lines painted that allow bikes to be parked near the shop/building but allowing room for pedestrians to pass. This is often ignored, forcing the walker on to the road or into the sewer, etc. I think there should be a new law allowing pedestrians to kick over bikes that are in the wrong zone. Repeat offenders will see their bikes not only kicked over but repeatedly stamped upon with venom until reduced to an unrecognisable tangle. Walkers could be provided with baseball bats to facilitate this deserved entanglement.
Cars, trucks and buses have louder horns and blast them at bikers all the time – even through the night. Yes, it’s time to go…
The school have been really nice and desperately want us to stay. We are currently giving the teachers free development sessions – passing on our 11 years’ TEFL experience in games, music, activities and help with their English pronunciation which is often woeful. The boss has offered us contracts at the highest rate of pay and help with work visas – a tempting package but it still includes teaching sulky, spoilt teenagers who appear to be more interested in their iPhones, boyfriends, giggling, etc. than in learning about gerunds and infinitives. I’m baffled. What is the world coming to? Yes, it’s time to go…
One of our lasting impressions of this place is the ‘Squeezy-bottle Ladies’. These women walk the streets with their shoulder poles, collecting (what appears to be) rubbish, alerting people with a squeaking noise from a washing-up bottle. They are the Vietnamese equivalents of what we used to call ‘Rag and Bone Men’. Rubbish is often recycled by collectors – many women go round the dumpsters, packing up bags of trash on their bikes, creating a double whammy for pedestrians: being mowed down then dumped on by sacks of crud! Guess it’s time to go…
Helen thinks I’m being a bit negative but I say: ‘Nonsense! I’ve really liked the smoothies in our local café!’ I say with all earnestness. But, we’ve had too many smoothies – it’s time to go.
We’ve been staying in a great hotel, ‘Dreams’ on Phan Dinh Phung; I know Helen’s mentioned it in her e-mails. We’ve got a big room with modern, flat-screen TV (with HDMI – a real plus for playing films on the laptop). We get an enormous buffet breakfast every morning with unlimited French bread, peanut butter, Marmite, eggs and endless fruits served in an old-fashioned ‘all-around-the-kitchen-table’ style and we often spend ages chatting away to all the other guests. Our host gives us free laundry and arranges anything we want. Oh yes, and did I mention this is all for about £15 a night (less than $25) for the two of us?
Another ray of light in this area is the nearby Lang Biang mountain range. We’ve been there a few times and really like the area, being mercifully free of motorbikes. Last weekend we had a guide take us to the top of one of the peaks, accessible only via a little-known, steep route, not for the badly-legged. We were up at 4 am and on top of the mountain at 8. We got stunning views at the top. En-route, we managed to spot Black Bulbuls, Verditer and Little Pied Flycatchers and Green-Backed Tits – all lifers – so the day was a complete result – pictures: trek up Lang Biang mountain, 28th October:
So, a quick summary: Easy Riders offering trips on the backs of bikes or in taxis are everywhere – these guys pester tourists daily, asking questions like: ‘Hi, where you from?’ I shout back: ‘I refuse to continue a discourse with anyone who omits auxiliary verbs!’ Actually, no, I usually resist the opportunity to correct their grammar but when they realise you’re from England they cheerfully jibe with some rib-tickling colloquialism like ‘Oh, luvly-jubbly!’ or ask about the Queen. My favourite is when they ask: ‘Hi, what you looking for today?’ and I reply: ‘An easy life’. What fun we have…
Beautiful flowers like poinsettia growing wild around the town; houses with enormous, elaborate gates (the local Mafia boss must be a gate-maker); the lake where one can wander round in relative serenity watching Javan pond herons flying over; our favourite evening meal spot, ‘The Peace Café’ providing no-nonsense food and the local Da Lat red wine (which we’ve taken quite a fancy to, hic!); evenings with our fellow, Aussie, teacher friend, Sue, and her daughter, drinking 333 beer and griping about the students; inflated bags of crisps in all the shops due to the low air pressure here and all bags packed in the lowlands; being millionaires again (500,000 dong = $25).
But, it’s time to go so, bye for now.
Andy, 1.11.12, Da Lat, Vietnam.
Here’s a picture of a Verditer Flycatcher, taken from the web: